How to help your child on the path to speaking smoothly
Your child’s first words were probably one of your highlights. You most likely made sure to capture it in that precious video or to write it carefully in a baby book. But what happens when those words and sounds turn into full speech that includes a stutter? What do you do about it? Where do you go? This article is a great resource for parents and educators of children with stutters so read on for more tips on how you can get rid of stuttering.
1. Catch it early.
The earlier you can detect a stutter or stammer in your child (or any speech impediment) the better, as when you know what you’re dealing with it’s easier to figure out where to go. Stutters usually appear in children between the ages of two and four, but can become known as late as six years old. Things to listen for include:
The repetition of words or syllables, “can can can I have some milk please,” or pauses before saying ideas “(pause) Can I have some milk please,” or you might find the stretching of sounds: “Caaaaaaaan I have some milk please,” for instance.
2. Seek professional advice.
When you realize that your child is stuttering, be sure to go to your family doctor and have them give you a referral. They will likely send you to see a speech and language pathologist as they are experts in this field and will have many good techniques they can use to help the child. Your health benefits may cover the cost of these visits so be sure to check.
There is also speech therapy available through schools, so if your child is school aged be sure to speak with their teacher to see if your child qualifies for help through the school system.
Some forms of speech therapy involve the parent and help coach the parents on how to best communicate with their child who has a stutter. If, as a parent, you find yourself in this role, be sure to go into these sessions with an open mind and take in as much as you can.
3. Always be patient.
When speaking with your child try to give them time to form their ideas. When possible, avoid interrupting them and try not to finish their words or sentences. It’s going to take longer for a kid with a stutter to say what they want but it’s still important to hear them out on their ideas instead of just hearing how they say them.
4. Remove distractions.
It will likely be harder for your child to get their ideas out if there are lots of distractions ( such as large crowds, screens or TVs, etc.). Get down to their level, something that is advisable when speaking to any child, and look them in the eye when they are trying to tell you something.
Removing distractions is a note for both you and the child – when you are distracted the child can tell so try and give them your undivided attention when possible.
5. What to avoid.
Having a speech impediment can be stressful and can cause speech anxiety in a child so try and make the environment in your house relaxed when it comes to talking. When helping a child who stutters try to not do the following things:
Correct them every time – pointing out the negatives can get discouraging so let them be and choose when you want to have teachable moments wisely.
Tell them to slow down – Asking them to do this may seem logical to them, but having them stop and start again can be frustrating.
Tell them to take a deep breath – Pointing out their lack of language fluency can be disheartening.
Ask them to think before they speak – they likely know what they want to say but are just having a hard time getting it out.
6. Deal with the emotions around their stuttering.
Stuttering can be frustrating and aggravating to children. It’s good to let them know that these emotions are normal and OK and that you understand how they feel.
Giving them tools to deal with the emotions may also help the stuttering. Helping them calm down when they are irritated or frustrated can help them come back to a place where it’s easier for them to speak fluently.
When the child gets older they may be self conscious of the way they speak when it comes to their peers or when they’re in social situations. This is also normal, so you can help them come up with ways to make themselves more comfortable so they can talk with their friends or classmates without being upset by the way they are speaking.
7. Watch your reactions.
When speaking with the child, what you say with your body language might unintentionally cause stress in your little one. When you have a look of frustration or concern on your face at the sound of them stuttering, your child might feel uneasy and become self-conscious. Try to remain relaxed and calm and really listen to what your child has to say.
8. Don’t look for blame, look for solutions.
It used to be thought that a stressful household environment was the cause of stuttering or that it was something that the parents had control over. These theories have been disproven and stuttering has been found to have neurological basis. Instead of trying to pin the stuttering on certain events or situations try and figure out the techniques that best help the child speak fluently and work on those. As with any situation, accentuating the positive is important.
So, will it be a smooth and easy road to leading your child to fluent speaking? Likely not, but there is hope; three quarters of toddlers who stutter will outgrow their stutter, so keep an open mind. Remember that stuttering has no bearing on a child’s intelligence and that although they may have a difficult time saying their ideas they may still have lots of great ones. Do you need some encouragement? Watch The King’s Speech. Now you can go into this experience with a positive attitude and a relaxed demeanour and all the right tools. Good luck, you can get rid of a stutter! It is possible!